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LP/MB/NS/Indian-Tennis: Notes for the 3 weeks ending on Jan 5th, 2003
(Previous week's notes) (Next week's notes) (Daily Notes Index 1997 thru 2003)

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Jan 5 Note-1

The #1 Indian vs the #2 Indian matchup turned out just as the rankings predicted, proving once again that Prakash Amritraj is here to stay .. [R1] (wc) P.Amritraj d. (wc) H.Mankad, 63 64 .. We had score updates from Singapore, off the Star sports TV coverage, by our fanclub member PK Basu (thanks!) .. Prakash broke Harsh once each late in both the sets (8th game of the first set and 7th in the second) .. Both players had a lot of break points, and Prakash's serve bailed him out a few times .. Good match .. Prakash was quite gracious in his post-match comments - he said it was tough to go up against somebody who is a good friend like Harsh, and said he was proud to have his dad as his coach ..  The win gives Prakash 15 points, raising his points total to 135 and his ranking from 280 to about 260 !! .. WOW..

Up next for Prakash is the winner of the Nadal vs Ascione match .. Both are very talented players .. By the way, here is what ATP gave yesterday for a preview on the Chennai Open -- "The four players who made the biggest ranking jumps in 2003 are all competing in Chennai: France's Thierry Ascione (who moved 455 places to end 2003 with an ATP entry ranking of No. 89), Russia's Dmitry Tursunov (moved 233 places to No. 98), Igor Andreev (moved 196 places to No. 90) and Spanish teenager Rafael Nadal (moved 188 places to No. 47)" .. That shows exactly what the tournament has got a reputation for - as the place where a lot of young talents show up .. While complaining that there is no "great men" like Becker coming anymore, I wish the press (and the tournament press releases themself, which try to sugarcoat things with talk of supporting Indians and all that gas) would recognize the true identity of the Chennai Open in this regard .. Back to the "Light Amritraj" (no, I certainly don't mean he is a light weight; just translating his name :)), he has a tough second round on wednesday - but he is showing all indications that he is ready to take on the world .. Go Kash!

In early matches today, David Ferrer (yet another Spaniard who has made huge strides up the rankings not too long ago) won, as did the last direct entry, Harel Levy who beat Portas.

We had some technical difficulties with the chatroom today, and so I have put up the old chatroom for use during this week whenever Indians' matches are on at Chennai .. I will update the scores as and wehn they become known at our Chennai Open page ..

Jan 4 Notes

The draw came out from Chennai today, and we find two Indian wildcards facing each other .. Prakash Amritraj faces Harsh Mankad!! .. Of course, my first reaction was to look for the schedule because I knew that they could make it hell for Harsh Mankad by making him play Monday itself, knowing that Harsh was still in a plane and would not even reach Mumbai till past midnight Sunday .. He is arriving sometime Monday from Mumbai .. I had to look for a place to go and puke, once I saw that my worse pessimism on human decency proved true -- there it was, Harsh scheduled to play Prakash at in the second match on Monday .. I looked for some newspaper people standing up and taikng a note of this, and was glad to find the ever-reliable Prajwal Hegde's article in the Deccan Herald ..  Here  she ends her article with this,

For Mankad, it’s going to be a tough start to the year. He is playing the second match on Stadium court tomorrow and he is yet to arrive in Chennai. According to his mother, the 24-year-old was only informed about the wildcard on Friday ..... Mankad was training at the Nick Bollettieri Academy in Florida in the off-season and is landing in Mumbai late on Sunday night. He is expected to be in Chennai on Monday afternoon, leaving him about six hours to recover from that tedious journey. Ravi Krishnan said, “It is not our problem if he doesn’t get enough time to practice.” That reaction best sums up the relationship between the Indian players and the owners of the country’s first ATP Tour event. [Mr. Ravi Krishna is Managing Director, IMG TWI, South Asia and Senior Institutional Vice President, IMG - Jay].

Holy cow, can you believe that? .. If anybody had a doubt on what exactly was going on here, that quote should put it all to rest .. Man, how low can people sink? .. In all my years of tirades about the Chennai Open, I don't think I have blamed any Indians there by name.  Looks like our press came through on this ..

Anyway, I am glad that even though the tournament stuck it up Harsh's rear-end, the winner of the match would still be an Indian .. In all fairness, Prakash has beaten Harsh once, and would have preferred not to be given this kind of help, I am sure .. Tournaments the world over try to go the extra mile for the domestic players, and they are allowed to schedule first round matches all the way till early wednesday .. But no.  Not at Chennai.   Now those of you readers who may have thought I was just being way too whiny about the Chennai Open see what is going on?

But the surprises don't end there .. Mustafa Ghouse seems to have managed to get a wildcard in doubles for Harsh by signing in .. What, the tournament could not find a couple of washed up foreigners to squeeze into the doubles draw? .. OK, let us not complain - be thankful for all small favors.

OK, back to the draw matter .. Karan Rastogi gets a wildcard to play in the first round .. Also, the biggest story today was from Vishal Punna in the qualies, as he upset the 3rd seed Jeff Salzenstein (USDA,132) who was a former top-100 player and has been playing well in a sort of a comeback over the last few months .. Punna did that in a 3rd set tioebreaker upset win .. WOW! .. How did Vishal do that? .. The DSCL National Champion is quickly racing to the top of the list in India, and seem nearly ready to join the RB-HM-PA trio soon, at this rate .. Punna became the first Indian since Harsh in 1998, to reach the Chennai qualifying finals .. Can he upset the 5ths eed Knowle and make it in tomorrow? -- You bet I think he can .. See all the scores and the draws in our Chennai Open page.

Of course, let us not forget Hesh .. He is playing with Dmitri Tursounov (RUS), unseeded and taking on the top seeds in doubles .. I think Tursounov is a pretty good partner - look for Hesh to do some damage, despite missing his originally expected partner, Leander.

Jan 3 Notes

OK, everything is set for the Tata Open draw, it seems .. The three wildcards went to Prakash Amritraj, Harsh Mankad and Karan Rastogi .. Sometime Friday late evening in Florida, Harsh Mankad got confirmation through AITA that a wildcard had been granted to him .. Just in the nick of time, that too .. He got a bit lucky and found a seat to fly out and left from Florida right after noon Saturday - he will reach Mumbai Sunday night and will get to Chennai on Monday morning, barring airport fog delays in India.

So, I should officially pull the foot out from my mouth for jumping all over the Tata Open organizers, and I should drink a bit of decaf :) ... I don't know why they had to wait this long to decide to give the WC to Harsh, but I won't complain now .. All is well that end well, no? .. Let us hope for a miracle or two from the three Indians in the main draw, PA, HM and KR .. That is the most Indians we have had in the main draw there .. The PTI news release today said that it is the first time that all three wildcards went to Indians .. Actually that is not correct - we had three (LP, PA, RB) last year as well and that was the first time it had happened in Chennai in 7 years .. Frankly, though I still whine every year and the Indian players sometimes still have to wait till the last minute to hear of WCs etc, the tournament has come a long way from the days when they used to give wildcards with total disregard for the fans's and players' feelings -- to undeserving guys like Brian Phau, Jonathan Stark, Paul Kilderry, Oliver Marach, etc .. They really don't do that kind of stuff anymore, and that is nice to see ..

I am not sure if the main draw has been made yet, but as the reports say, it is not going to be easy for Paradorn to keep his title this time, with five top-25 players, probably the most we have seen there .. Hopefully there will be no last-minute wiuthdrawals or anything .. Moya is of course very popular in Chennai Moya, but Schalken, Robredo, Mantilla, etc can all cause damage .. Watch out for Rafael Nadal, the truly rising phenom from Spain .. Getting him to come to Chennai was nice, and this tournament is indeed getting some reputation as a favorite place for many rising stars .. Actually the Spaniards must somehow really like Chennai - there are ten of them there! .. I saw in a tennis bulletin board somebody asking - "are you sure this torunament is in India and not in Spain?"  :-) ..

The qualies have started today there, and the field looks quite tough with the 8th seed Zelko Krajan ranked at #220 ..  Three Indians, Somdev Dev Varman, Vishal Punna and Mustafa Ghouse made it into the second  round .. Vishal won a good match against Ajay Ramaswamy and Mustafa beat wildcard Parantap Chaturvedi .. The big win was by Somdev Dev Varman, who again showed that he is ready to move on to the professional levels with yet another top-500 win -- upsetting Jonathan Erlich (ISR,473) in a tough and gritty 46 75 75 comeback .. He has a tough second round against the 4th seed Danai Udomchoke (THA,162) .. Vishal and Mustafa also face tough second round opponents -  3rd seed Jeff Salzenstein (USA,132) and 5th seed Julian Knowle (AUT,164) .. In other first round matches, Sunil Kumar played quite well, it seems, in a 46 46 loss to the second seed  Jan Vacek (CZE,129) .. Vijay Kannan went down to the 6th seed Noam Okun and Manoj Mahadevan lost to 8th seed Krajan .. Peter Luxa pulled the big upset on the first seed Martin Arguello (ITA) .. I don't know how Stephen Amritraj who had signed in for the qualies yesterday ended up being replaced by an alternate player (Karsten Braasch) today .. See all the score in our Chennai Open page.

Tara Iyer's fine run ended in a close match yesterday at the Group A Copa Casablanca in Mexico .. She went down to Maraike Biglmaier (GER,150), 62 26 67(1) yesterday in the QF .. Still great work by Tara out there, becoming the first Indian girl (to my knowledge) to reach QF in a group-A level event ..

The National Junior Masters got all done today in Delhi with the top four seeds in each category winning the finals -- Rupesh in the boys u18, Sanaa in the girls u18, Agnel Gladwyn in the boys u14 and GK Shwetha in the girls u18 .. It was ncie to see Swetha in the finals of both the u14 and u18 events .. Agnel and Swetha have clearly established themselves as the tops in their age categories and as players to watch out for .. I have not got all of friday's semifinal scores, but all the rest iof it can be found at our AITA Junior Masters page.

Jan 2 Note-2

Hold everything .. Now a source tells me that Tata Open actually never announced the wildcard for Canas, and there is a bit of confusion going on (come to think of it, I am not sure if I saw an official announcement, except what is at the Canas site -- and Canas himself is in the semis this week at the New Caledonia challenger as of today) .. I may have jumped the gun in damning the Tata Open? .. I hope so, and I will only be happy to eat excrement and try to extricate my foot from my mouth, if it all turns out differently than we thought.

Jan 2 Note-1

The 3rd main draw wildcard for the Chennai Open was announced this evening, and it has gone to our top junior player Karan Rastogi .. Karan is a super talent and is the highest ranked Indian junior since Leander Paes, so he richly deserved getting a wildcard .. He is expected at around #6 in the new junior world rankings next week - it would be great to see him do something special at Chennai .. By the way, don't think the kid cannot pull a miracle win out there -- he well could!

Though I am very happy to see Karan playing there, I am still quite mad at the tournament for the way they treated Harsh Mankad over the years .. This was one year, with LP and RB both not playing there, for him to get a wildcard and a chance to play the main draw of the top Indian event ..  And it is quite clear that the tournament was really giving him the middle finger for daring to speak out against what they have been doing all these years .. To my knowledge, he is the only one in Indian tennis circles to say even a word against Tata Open in public .. So, what exactly did HM say that they are all upset about? .. Just saying some plain facts, and not really anything else .. Here is what Harsh said, according to the Indian Express article last month (Dec 5th) -

"Chances of getting a wild card at Tata Open are 50-50. They have not been supportive of me all these years. I dont understand the way they conduct such an important event. I can understand if there are six or seven tours taking place in India but we have only one ATP tour event and the way the organisers treat Indian second-string players is really disappointing." fumed Mankad .. "In 2000, when i made it to the Indian team, myself and Nitin Kirtane, who was also part of the Davis Cup team then, applied for wild cards in doubles. But despite being Davis cuppers we were ignored!" recalled Mankad .. Mankad went on, " In 2000 I won the title at the Krishnan Tennis Tournament beating Sayed Fazalluddin. I was given to understand that the winner of that tournament is given the wild card for Tata Open but here again i was ignored and the wild card was handed over to Fazaluddin" .. "These organisers dont understand that if a Indian youngster does something at an event of this calibre, it changes the whole world for him apart from financial gains".

Pretty candid words showing his puzzlement at how he gets totally neglected all the time .. And he did not even talk about anything else he has done in his career (as I do below) that makes him a candidate for some help from the tournament  - he only talked about facts directly related to the Tata Open and him .. I am told that it was not a planned outburst or anything but that he was only speaking frankly when the newspaper reporter kept asking him about the tournament .. But what Harsh was saying is all every bit true as anybody who has read what I have written over the years about how this tournament is conducted, would know .. Calling guys like Wesley Whitehouse who did not even dream of getting a wildcard and telling him that he had one, when guys like Srinath and Fazal who were playing the Davis Cup on the weekend couldn't even play qualies .. Giving a wildcard in 2002 to Oliver Marach, who did not even show up to get the WC .. Giving it way early to a then-unknown Viniciguerra in Sweden and then keeping it from the Indian press, which would not even be known unless I had broken the story here after hearing from Swedish sources about it .. Heck, even this year, they did not announce that Canas had been given a wildcard, for at least a week or more - and we found out only through Canas sources ..

Anyway, I feel bad for Harsh ..  Why am I feeling so strongly about this? .. I know most of you readers know all this, but consider his records and you decide if he should be treated like a pariah like this .. He has been first or second among all the youngsters for something like a 7-8 years now .. Vijay Kannan was considered better than him for a while, Sunil Kumar was considered better for a while (and even got a main draw wildcard once at Chennai), but HM is the one who is still standing .. He is currently second in singles and tops in doubles among all of the Indian youngsters, but on perceived potential, admittedly perhaps even correctly, he is considered behind PA and RB again .. He was considered soft, he was considered not hard-working, he was considered unpatriotic - all at various times .. All he has done is to plough along .. He has played Davis Cup for four years, had proven his potential in US college circuit reaching the #1 spot there as well .. He was the first Indian since LP and MB to win a title abroad when he did it in the Canada futures in 2001 .. He was the first Indian not named LP or MB ever to reach a challenger semi last year .. He is also the first one since LP and MB to make it to the top-200 of doubles as well, a few months back ..Heck, he is currently on a career high ranking in singles and doubles that he reached by moving up from being nearly unranked about 15 month back .. To boot, he also has had the best qualifying results of any Indian at Chennai in seven years (as an 18 year old in 1998 when he reached the final round) .. All with no International Money Grabbers giving him sponsorship and all .. Only in India that a player with his credentials can get treated like this! .. Does not bottom line results mean anything to anybody anymore? .. That he was even as diplomatic as he was in not naming names in the newspaper article surprises me .. That not a soul from India seems to have cared to do anything about all this (except Anil Khanna of AITA who I believe did talk to the Tata Open) is a reflection of how callous everything has become .. Perhaps staying away from all the camps and politics in Indian tennis is what Harsh's mistake is .. He should just go and do a pRaNAm to somebody, say "samastAparAdham" and get the blessings, I suppose .. But those Tata Open guys out there know a thing or two about how to control the press/ media and make the apperance of them all being in support of Indian tennis .. I don't expect anybody to say a word about anything as usual and this is after all a pretty regular thing that I am used to - feeling upset about what happens in Chennai ..

By the way, I believe this is the first time I have really asked for some help to Mankad from Chennai .. At various times my beef has been about how they treated the Srinaths, Fazals, etc .. Last year I complained about Rohan being made to wait till the very end before being given a WC .. I think I also complained about Sunil being given a wildcard, as I thought it was all way too early (and because I knew that it was because people were suddenly after signing up the 16 year old DSCL national champion for sponsorship etc, too - it is always a self-serving angle in all this) .. Almost every year there is something unpalatable going on, it would seem.

Having said all that, I should hasten to add that Karan should not feel he took away a spot from Harsh .. KR did deserve a wildcard for how well he has done as a 16 year old this year .. But for Karan and another of my favorite players (Prakash) playing there and MB being in doubles, I would have decided to take another week off and forget about even looking at what happens at Chennai next week ..  

OK, on to some other news -- The entry lists are out for the big Australian ITF events (Grade-2 Victorian Juniors - 9th,  grade-1 Australian Hardcourts - 18th, and the grade-A Australian Open juniors - 26th) .. Karan Rastogi, Tushar Liberhan, Divij Sharan, and Sanaa Bhambri are listed for those events .. TL, DS and SB are listed in the main draw for the second and 3rd events .. Karan was there for the first week also, but if he ends up winning a round or two at Chennai - which would be incredible and something special - he may now have to skip it .. Ankita was in the list for the second and 3rd events, and had already moved up to 6th and 9th in the qualies, with a chance to making it in by the end, but she withdrew as of yesterday - probably to play the $10K events in India (Hyderabad - 12th, Delhi - 19th) .. What I am disappointed about is that Tara Iyer, who is doing tremedously this week in Mexico, is missing from the lists .. I hope she can go down there and play qualies for the Australian Open at least ..

By the way, Sania Mirza will not be at the two Indian $10K women's pro events .. The news agency report today says it is because she will be playing events in Italy .. I don't think there are events those weeks in Italy, but probably she will be training and getting ready to play the two Italian challengers in the two weeks after the Indian events .. If so it is good news actually, because that means she will be staying longer at San Remo with coach Bob Brett and getting ready for big time events -- no point in her coming to the two Indian events and racking up a bunch of wins at that level .. Thinking big and shooting for bigger things is what we need .. We will see her at the WTA Hyderbad (Feb 16th) I am sure..

Jan 1 Notes

On the other hand, that gives a fantastic opportunity to our young lion, Karan .. He will be ranked around #6 in the world next week in the juniors and is expected to be the 4th oir 5th seed at the Australian Open juniors .. Go Karan! .

Shubha Nava Vatsaram! ..

Good to be back with the regular news updates ..  Lots of stuff to talk about.

First of all, the Tata Open is about to start, the qualifying rounds starting Saturday and the signin by end of Friday .. As you may have heard by now, Leander Paes decided this week not to play singles or doubles at Chennai .. From what I have heard, there is no serious concerns, but he is unsure that he is ready to play yet .. Things taking a little longer than expected to come together - it is always tough after so many months of layoff from tennis .. He will use two more weeks of work and get ready for the Australian Open .. Mahesh was the first one he talkd to - as they were originally expected to play doubles together there .. Unfortunate .. But Lee sounds confident of getting back to decent form by the end of the Australian Open and then the Davis Cup ..

The really bad news is that Rohan Bopanna has been asked to take rest for 8 weeks by the doctors, due to a minor fracture on the shoulder which hopefully will go away wuith rest .. Apparently the problem surfaced a few months back and now it appears that if he does anything now, he is in danger of bringing on a serious injury .. Not sure if it is exactly a "stress fracture", which is extremely rare for shoulders, according to the resident doctors in our forum .. The normal condition for the shoulder is something like a rotator cuff issue  - but the news reports have not mentioned that .. Anyway, hopefully he will not need surgery and all that and will be back in Februaruy .. But he is now confirmed to be unavailable for Davis Cup - so the singles duties out there will have to be by LP, PA and HM ..

Though the wildcard meant for LP is now free, the Tata Open folks, strangley, have not announced whom they will give it to .. There was a PTI report about them saying yesterday that they would "99 percent" give it to an Indian .. The automatic choice is of course Harsh Mankad, the second highest ranked Indian (Prakash being the first, and he has a WC already), and the highest ranked Indian doubles player after LP and MB .. harsh also has the record as the only Indian to ever reach even the final round of qualifying at Chennai .. The problem is that Harsh has been in Florida, training at the Bolletieri's .. He has entered the Florida futures (starting on Jan 12th and 19th) and didn't have money to spend to go to India for just one week, just to play the qualies .. As far as I know, Harsh is ready to fly out tomorrow if there is a main draw wildcard for him (that he richly deserves) as the prize money will cover his travel .. But the Chennai Open organizers have not announced a wildcard and it is getting way too late now for Harsh, who is hoping for some last minute good news from Chennai .. I believe AITA had recommended Harsh Mankad for a wildcard, but there is nothing they can do, except to put in a word .. I will hold back any further comment, as I don't want to cause further problems between Harsh and the tournament -- I dearly hope they will come up with a wildcard for him.  But it will have to be in the next few hours, or it is too late.

The "Indian Oil Servo" Men's Invitational at the Krishnan Tennis Center outside Chennai got done today .. There was a decent field there, with Sunil Kumar Sipaeya, Vijay Kannan, Vinod Sridhar, Ajay Ramaswamy and Somdev Dev Varman in the frey .. The top seed Sunil Kumar won the title today beating Ajay in the final -- he made some Rs 40K and got a wildcard entry into the quialifying rounds at Chennai as well .. Good to see Sunil starting the year well .. You can see the draw and scores at our KTC invitational page ..

Now on to some great news! .. 15 year old Tara Iyer just became the first Indian girl to reach a Grade-A ITF juniors quarterfinal today! .. At the Copa Casblanca grade-A in Mexico, the 8th seeded Tara Iyer (IND,93) has so far beaten Andra Savu (ROM,280) 64 75, Liege Vieira (BRA,349) 64 61 and today the 9th seed, Jennifer Elie (USA,106) 61 64 .. In the quarterfinal, she faces unseeded Maraike Biglmaier (GER,150) who has upset the 13th seed Teodora Mircic (YUG,147) and the 2nd seed Chan Yung-Jan (TPE,12) to reach the QF .. This is one of the very few grade-A events, which give the same points as a grand slam, except for the champion's bonus .. The field is quite weaker than at a grand slam, but it is still a big achievement for young Tara, who has been training in the US for the last few years .. Go Tara! .. The 80 points for the QF will raise her point total up by 60 to 275 and her ranking to inside the top 60 or 55 next week .. She has started doing well in doubles as well, something she was not known for earlier .. Playing with the talented Sanja Ancic of Croatia, she was seeded 5th in doubles and reached her first grade-A doubles QF as well .. [R1] (5) Ancic/ Iyer d. Jade Curtis/ Maria Spenceley (GBR) 63 64 .. [R2] d. Shana Claes BEL / Liege Vieira (BRA) 60 63 .. They went down to the second seeds Marina Erakovic (NZL)/ Bibiane Schoofs (NED), 36 57 today, but it is good work by Tara in doubles also this week .. Great to see the girl starting the year on the right track ..

More junior news -- the AITA Natioinal Junior Masters is underway this week .. This is new in the calendar and pits the top 8 players in the AITA domestic rank lists (u14 and u18 girls and boys)  into a tournament in the same format as the ATP year end championships .. The first three days of roun robin with two pools in each of the four catagories, got done today .. The semifinalists have been spotted .. Take a look at our Junior Year-end Masters page .. Rupesh Roy, Tushar Liberhan, Sanaa Bhambri, Agnel Gladwyn, GK Shwetha etc have all reached the SFs .. GK Shwetha is the only one to be in the u14 and u18 semifinals! .. The semifinals are on Friday, when the doubles events also start.

Even more junior news -- this is from last week, when the DSCL National mini and subjunior hardcourts got done .. Large draws there and I have not compiled the results yet into an archive page .. Here are the finals scores - Boys u16 singles: Peter Agnel Gladwin (MAH) d. Kinshuk Sharma (CHD) 63 62 .. Girls u16 singles: Shivika Burman (WB) beat Daksha Mulay (MAH) 46 60 76(5) .. Boys u14 singles:  Peter Agnel Gladwin (MAH) d. Vijayant Malik (CHD) 64 63 .. u14 doubles: Krishna Karsolia (UP)/ GP Prajnesh (TN) beat Yuki Bhambri (DLI)/ Debendra Das (WB) 63 61 .. Girls u14 singles: GK Swetha (KAR) d. Parija Maloo (MAH) 61 61 .. u14 doubles: Karina Ahuja/ Sanjana Kapoor (DLI) beat Shivika Burman (WB)/ GK Swetha (KAR) 62 16 64 .. Congratulations to all the winners! .. Agnel and Shwetha have continued their good work this week as well, at the AITA Masters.

Dec 23 Notes.

 .. I am now fully on vacation for a week (going out of town, actually) .. The next update will be around the Tuesday (30th) .. Meanwhile, the DSCL Open u14 and u16 draws are going on this week .. All four draws have reached the QF levels without all that many upsets, but it will get interesting from now on .. See the wonderful DSCL Open official site for all the prompt score updates (I will archive the scores next week here) ..

Got some pictures from the two weeks of Delhi action from our press friend Kamesh Srinivasan (his own snaps, not official newspaper pictures - thanks, Kamesh!) .. I have put them up at the photo gallery of our forum .. Check out the Asian Juniors album and the DSCL album ..

In other news, Justin Gimelstob (USA,106) has withdrawn from the Chennai Tata Open (starting Jan 5th) .. He is replaced by Fernando Verdasco (ESP,109) ..  Of course, the Tata Open still has not even opened a website for this year, as far as we know - pathetic show like last year on that front.

In the ITF juniors, Tara Iyer, based in the US, has been active tfor three weeks .. Could not do much in singles though .. [R1] (Q) Varvara Lepchenko (USA) d. Tara Iyer, 61 64, two weeks back at the grade-1 US Winter internationals, [R1] (15) Anna Tchakvetadze (RUS,25 - wimbledon runnerup) d. Tara Iyer (IND,94), 62 63, at the grade-A Orange Bowl last week, and [R1] Fernanda Hermenegildo (BRA) d. (10) Tara Iyer, 6-4 6-1 at the grade-1 Yucatan Cup in Mexico yesterday .. Tara did reach her first grade-A quarterfinal in doubles last week with two good wins at the Orange Bowls though .. The big news was an Indian-American, Neha Uberoi (USA), reaching the final of the grade-A Orange Bowl, the most prestigious ITF event after the grand slams, giving the points as grand slams, except for the winner's bonus .. Neha, who did not play much juniors and started on the senior tour last year itself, showed that she has terrific talent, by upsetting much more talked about junior phenoms like the top seed Michaela Krajicek (NED) along the way to the final which she lost in a tight threesetter! .. Wow!!

Dec 20 Notes

Vacation time here .. I am lazy I guess, and distracted a bit .. OK, here is the news on the DSCL hardcourt nationals titles .. Punna Vishal ended the incredible run of wildcard 17 yr old Divij Sharan in men's final .. Ankita Bhambri won the women's title over sister Sanaa easily .. Navdeep Singh and Punam Reddy won the boys/girls singles .. Ajay-Rishi and Bhambri sisters won men/women doubles .. Sanam-Jeevan and Kartiki-Sandra won boys/girls doubles .. Sad to see Divij Sharan end up with no gas today after continuously playing three matches in each of the last four days .. Here are all the results -- I will add more comments and newspaper links later.

Dec 18 Notes

The DSCL Hardcourt Nationals reached the semifinal stages on all four singles draws, and the Delhi kids have been having a grand time so far .. First of all, Divij "Longhorn" Sharan is in the semis of u18 and men's draws (as well as in the final of the men's doubles with Somdev) - the boy is clearly showing that HE is the find of the year .. Based on all the news reports so far, he has come a long way in his tennis and mental strengths this year .. Sanaa Bhambri of Delhi is also in both u18 and women's draws (and was still in the women's doubles draw with sister Ankita when in the latest draw updates I have seen)  - that is truly remarkable for a 15 year old .. Sanam Singh, who stole everyone's heart yesterday with his incredible upset of Ajay Ramaswamy in a 3-set match he played soon after winning a three set two-tiebreaker marathon in u18 just before, had probably nothing left in his tank today .. Apparently he also lost his grand mother yesterday - so the losses today to 6th and 4th seeds in the draws was perhaps expected .. The kids are all showing how much the depth has improved in Indian tennis lately .. Don't forget Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan from TN, who has quietly won four rounds in the u18, BTW ..  On the women's side, Delhi girl Parul Goswamy's run ended against city-mate Ankita, but she pulled yet another upset today, this time against the 4th seed in the u18, Sandri .. The reportedly "much-improved" Punam Reddy is in the semi against Sanaa in the u18 and almost did a job against women's 7th seed Samrita, falling in three sets today .. Here are all the scores - the DSCL page ..

There have been some nice newspaper reports on this event so far .. It is fantastic that three of the newspaper correspondents who follow the Indian scene very closely are watching and commenting on all the players in display .. There was a bit of irritation shown by all of them at first about the top players skipping the DSCL, but they all seem to be thoroughly enjoying the tournament which has indeed brought out a lot more interesting "sparks" than ususal, this year .. The links on today's matches - Kamala Kannan wins match, Sanam the hearts (Kamesh Srinivasan, The Hindu) .. Divij and Sanaa keep Delhi’s flag flying (S.Kannan, Hindustan Times) .. Divij Sharan continues dream run (Sukhwant Basra, Times of India) .. On yesterday's matches, here are the links - Afreen shows Liza the door (Kamesh, TH) .. Top seeded women crash out (Kannan, HT) .. Exit bells for several seeds (Sukhwant, TOI) ..

For those who are wondering what that "Longhorn" reference is, it shows that Divij Sharan will be playing for the University of Texas, Austin, one of the greatest universities in the world which is also the best in the world in sports as well (with only Stanford to rival them closely) .. Texas mascot is a longhorn variety bull .. Of course, I am a graduate from there - wouldn't you guess? :) .. But really, it is true that they are thge best sports univ in the world .. In tennis however, Texas is not as well-known as in football, baseball, basketball, swimming, etc, but they are normally at least in the top 15 or 20 in rankings in the US .. That Texas signed him up this early to play for them next August, is a sign of how highly they thought of his potential ...

Dec 17 Notes

It was announced by Krishna Bhupathi, tournament director for the Hyderabad WTA Indian Open (Feb  16-22), that there will be a pretty good field in the upcoming edition .. The news release from Globosport says -  "The cut-off has been applied at an astonishingly high world-ranking of 121, and the list includes 16 Top 100 players ... The list of participants includes Tamarine Tanasugarn, winner of the inaugural 2003 edition of the WTA Indian Open, as well as the 2003 runner up and Asian Games Gold Medalist as Iroda Tulyaganova. Other stars to play at The WTA Indian Open 2004 include World No.1 Doubles player, Virginia Ruano Pascual, four time WTA Tour champion Ruxandra Dragomir Ilie and two-time WTA Tour winner Barbara Rittner ... The waiting list includes Maria Kirilenko, the 16-year-old Russian prodigy widely regarded as the best young player in the world .... Besides the abovementioned names, there will be at least one or two marquee names from the WTA's 'Gold and Silver Exempt' lists that will be announced at a later stage. This very provision saw two-time Grand Slam Champion Mary Pierce participate last year" .. Hey, that is nice news .. Good to know that the tournament will be at least as interesting as the last edition which was a lot of fun!

I also hear from Globosport that they helped Isha Lakhani and Megha Vakharia also go to Bob Brett's academy for training till January  .. The funding for these two came mostly from MSLTA (Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Assciation) .. They will join Sania Mirza, who is already there, with sponsorship from the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh .. That is exactly what our top junior girls needed .. Great work by Mahesh Bhupathi's Globosport in making it all happen!

Things got very interesting today at the DSCL National Hardcourts (see the DSCL page for scores) .. Some top seeds got upset, but the biggest upset of the day came from a 15 year old player - Sanam Krishna Singh upset the 4th seed Ajay Ramaswamy in a 26 76(4) 64 comeback .. Though I had written earlier about Sanam as a top talent, this is quite an astonishing result, knowing all the abilities and experience Ajay has .. Sanam is also in the QF of the u18 draw .. The Divij-Tushar match turned out to be a good one and Divij advanced in a three-setter .. Vinod, Vishal and Somdev have all quietly reached the QF..  Actually Vinod-vs-Somdev will be a good one to look for in the QFs ..

The kids are creating serious noise on the women's side too, with the top three seeds getting upset .. The big one was the second seed Sai Jayalakshmy falling to S.Punam Reddy, 57 57 .. What happened there, I don't know .. Punam is 16 years old and has been on the ITF junior tour for a couple of years without any earthshattering results .. But she had certainly come on strong late this year in the three Indian ITF event, sharing a title at the Mumbai grade-4, beating Madura, Parul, Vandana and falling only to Ankita and Isha .. Perhaps Punam is ready for a breakthrough? -- I hope so .. Liza Perieira, due to how the rankings worked out, ended up as the top seed in the women's draw but was ousted by 16 yr old qualifier Afreen Jahan .. And, not to be outdone, Sanaa Bhambri upset the 3rd seed Archana, which is not a huge surprise if Sanaa has returned to her usual form from before the arm injury this year .. Shruti and Ankita have had no trouble so far.

The u18 girls draw saw 7 seeds reach the QFs with the only upset coming from Parul Goswami who beat the 8th seed Meghna, to follow up on her upset of Sheetal in the women's draw yesterday (she made the QF there too) ..

In the boys' u18, the big win was by Navdeep Singh who upset the top seed Rupesh Roy in three sets .. He is a kid who grew up in the Gulf and is undergoing training in UK these days -- the newspaper correspondents from Delhi seemed impressed with his first round play .. He turns 17 early next year and has a year to create some noise in the ITF juniors .. This was a big win for the boy who is very focussed in his tennis career .. Divij Sharan, M.Jeevan etc have quietly reached the QFs.

Though I was a bit sad to see a few of the top  players skipping the event, in retrospect, it may not be a bad thing after all .. Rather than the top players taking out some of these youngsters, the kids are all getting a chance to go up against good senior players and create some good results for themselves, get noticed, and pick up some momentum and self-confidence for the next year ..

Dec 16 Notes

The DSCL Hardcourt Nationals had all four draws reach pre-quarterfinal stage today .. There were a couple of upsets .. A big surprise was 8th seed Sheetal going down in the women's draw to young Parul Goswamy, easily the biggest upset of Parul's career .. In the u18 boys' draw, the 6th seed Siddharth Patil fell in a long 3-setter to Kaushik Raju (KAR) and 8th seed S.Prateek fell to a Syed Rahil from Karnataka whom I had not noticed before .. All eight seeds in the girls' draw reached the PQF and 14 of the 16 seeds in the boys' draw (which is the only 64-draw there) .. Seven seeds each from the men's and women's draws also stayed alive ..  The match of the day was certainly between two of the talented youngsters, Tushar Liberhan who recently turned 17 and Rupesh Roy who is way too good that nobody seems to want to believe his official age of 14 years and 10 months .. Everybody looks at Rupesh as somebody ready to challenge the top u18 boys and that he did well .. Tushar, who has lately been in superb form, was up to the task though .. Here are the reports from S.Kannan in the Hindustan Times and from Kamesh Srinivasan in The Hindu .. Another ineteresting men's duel was between the Delhi boy Parantap Chaturvedi and experienced Rishi Sridhar, which was postponed from yesterday - Parantap won a long affair in a 3rd set tiebreaker; Rishi has not been in top form for quite a while this year .. Archana Venkatraman had to summon up all her experience in the women's draw to get past talented 15 year old who was the u16 and u18 champion last year at Delhi .. Preethi Subrahmanian from TN has been having a good tournament so far - she beat Varsha Shivshankar in the women's draw and now faces the same player in the u18 draw tomorrow .. Preethi is from Kovai, if I am not mistaken (Niru's hometown) - I wonder if she can give Ankita a match tomorrow in the women's draw; doubtful though .. Another interesting match today was from AjitPal Singh's son Gurmehar who played a protracted threesetter to beat experienced Vasudev Reddy .. There are a lot of interesting final-16 matches coming up .. Tushar-vs-Divij (men), Archana-vs-Sanaa (women), Sanaa-vs-Shwetha (u18), Rupesh-vs-Navneet (u18), are some .. See the results in our DSCL page ..

Dec 15 Notes

Interesting stuff from London yesterday .. BBC flew in Leander Paes to give a surprise present to Martina Navratilova .. The Life Time Achievement Award at their Sport Personality of the Year show yesterday .. Here is the BBC article - .. Excerpts - "It's a great honour," she said, after being presented the award by mixed doubles partner Leander Paes who has recently overcome a serious illness ... "The most amazing thing is Leander being here. It wasn't the icing on the cake, it was the cake." .. 

I actually knew about BBC planning this, but it was all in strict confidence, as they wanted it to remain a surprise for Martina .. The old lady deserves all the accolades, of course ..

At the DSCL Nationals, there weren't too many surprises today in the first round, except for Divij Sharan upsetting the 5th seed Jaco Mathew - which really can't be considered a big surprise ..  I have updated all the singles results at our DSCL page .. Will add doubles results soon.

Today's ITF junior ranks show three Indians in the top-6 of doubles .. Divij Sharan is #5 with Karan Rastogi and Somdev Varman tied for 6th .. Arun Prakash is at 12th .. In singles, Karan Rastogi moved to a career-high #17 in the junior ranks and Arun to #35 .. In the ATP men's ranks, Harsh Mankad moved up to a career high #340 .. Prakash is at #280 and Rohan is at #345 .. In doubles, Harsh is at #181, Rohan at #210 and Prakash at #237 .. These are pretty much the year end rankings ..

.. Previous notes are at Notes for the week ending on Dec 15 ..

I am getting some inquiries from US college coaches who are interested in Indian junior players .. I would like to be able to contact Indian players (some of the coaches are inquiring about specific names) .. If any of the junior players are reading this, please contact me .. Or if any of the other readers know the contact emails/address for any junior player, let me know .. I would like to have a mailing list where I can post general announcements and inquiries from the coaches too .. Please email me - R.Jayakrishnan.